Darcy Graham may be your traditional humble Borders lad but he can’t help but admit that a dream season has his confidence levels soaring to the point where the prospect of making the Lions tour in a couple of summers’ time is a realistic goal.
The seed was planted in Graham’s mind by his Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill when the Englishman held his debrief sessions following a mixed season which had seen glory nights and days in the elite Heineken Champions Cup and emphatic back-to-back wins over eventual Guinness Pro14 finalists Glasgow to retain the 1872 Cup but ultimate disappointment in not reaching the play-offs and slipping back into Europe’s second tier.
Graham shone brightly in big European wins over Montpellier and Toulon and took his Scotland caps tally to four in the Six Nations, capping it off with a try double in the unforgettable fightback for a 38-38 draw with England at Twickenham which kept the Calcutta Cup north of the border.
“Cockers said in my one-to-one meeting that I’ve cemented myself in the Scotland squad, so why not be the best winger in Britain and Ireland, not just Scotland? He said to me that’s my next goal, to aim for that,” explained the 21-year-old from Hawick.
“I came out of the meeting thinking I had never thought of that and then thought ‘there’s no reason why not’.” Former Lions stand-off-turned commentator and journalist Stuart Barnes has picked Graham as his potential “bolter” for South Africa in 2021.
“I didn’t know that,” said Graham. “It’s quite nice if people think that but my focus is on this World Cup – I need to get through this, play well and we’ll see what happens after that.”
Graham was speaking in Inverness, where Gregor Townsend’s extended training squad kicked off their preparations for the tournament in Japan.
“The World Cup is the biggest tournament in the world – you always want to go and this is my chance to show the coaches what I can do,” said the 5ft 9in wing, who started rugby life as full-back and filled in there for his club when Blair Kinghorn missed the end of the season with injury.
“I want to work hard on the field, get fit and put a bit of weight on and hopefully get on that plane.
“In that one-to-one with Cockers at the end of the season he said he’s not fussed about my weight, it will come naturally to me with four gym sessions a week, so I’m not worried about it.
“When I came in to Scotland they asked me what my goals are for strength and conditioning and I said then I just want to get quick because the quicker I am, the better I am.
“I’m 83kg [just over 13 stones] and I’d like to get to to 85kg.”
The break before joining up with Scotland has given Graham the chance to get back to his beloved Hawick, where he was honoured to see his picture go up on the Mansfield Park clubhouse wall, alongside a host of Green Machine greats to have earned international recognition.
That came at an afternoon’s entertainment, hosted by Gala great Townsend, alongside Graham’s onetime boyhood idol, now Test team-mate, Stuart Hogg.
“It was good fun. It was really nice of the club to put that on for us – it was for my first cap [v Wales in Cardiff in November last year] and Hoggy becoming the most capped Scottish player out of Hawick. It was probably a good send-off for Hoggy as well [after leaving Glasgow for pastures new at Exeter Chiefs].
“Coming from Hawick, you always want to play for Hawick and play for Scotland and get your photo up on that wall. There’s a lot of big names on that wall so it was pretty special.”
Graham also enjoyed the town’s Common Riding at the start of the month, though regretfully for him not from and equestrian vantage.
“I’ve still got two horses – I’d still be doing the Common Riding if I was allowed,” he said. “But I can’t due to my contract, it’s viewed an extreme sport.”